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October 13, 1998

President Boris Yeltsin
The Kremlin
Moscow, Russian Federation

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly troubled by the criminal prosecution of Grigori Pasko, a military reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta, whose trial on charges of high treason and revealing state secrets in Vladivostok begins on October 14. A guilty verdict in the trial could result in his imprisonment for up to 20 years.

Pasko, a naval officer and journalist, is scheduled to appear at 10 a.m before Col. Dmitry Petrovich Savushkin, a justice in the Pacific Navy Court. He has been imprisoned since his arrest on November 20, 1997, for a series of articles and reports in the military newspaper Boyevaya Vakhta, Japanese Asahi daily, and NHK television company in Tokyo describing the environmental hazards caused by Russia decaying nuclear submarine fleet. Pasko was arrested in Vladivostok airport after returning from Japan. Federal Security Bureau agents searched his apartment and confiscated documents he had gathered for his ongoing investigation, as well as cassettes, books and his computer. He is accused of passing classified information to foreign agents. Although officials have admitted that none of the confiscated documents were classified, they claim the series of reports as a whole, published and aired over a three-year period, posed a threat to Russia=92s national security. The FSB has classified the case a state secr et, making it difficult for Pasko=92s attorneys to mount a proper legal defense.

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the universally recognized rights of our colleagues around the world, CPJ strongly protests the arrest and criminal prosecution of Grigori Pasko for his practicing his profession. The case launched against Pasko, who gathered unclassified documents for use in his journalistic investigations for Russian and foreign news media, clearly violates his right "to seek and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe a guilty verdict against Pasko would have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in Russia and set a dangerous precedent for future use of the country. law on state secrets by officials against journalists. Because the state's charges are groundless and pursuing the prosecution would severely damage press freedom in your country, CPJ urges you to drop the state charges against Pasko and release him immediately.

Ann. K. Cooper
Executive Director